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2023 Formula 1 Season Primer: What to Expect

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Mick Schumacher and Max Verstappen battle on track at 2022 British Grand Prix
Photo: fuji.tim via CC

With the last F1 season now well behind us, it’s time to look forward to the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship. What’s the schedule, who are the drivers, what will the cars look like, and what else can we expect?

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2023 F1 car launch dates

Before pre-season testing goes under way, the teams will reveal their new cars. This is when they plan to do it:

Haas – January 31 (livery only)
Red Bull Racing – February 3
Williams – February 6 (livery only)
Alfa Romeo – February 7
AlphaTauri – February 11 (livery only)
Aston Martin – February 13
McLaren – February 13
Ferrari – February 14
Mercedes – February 15
Alpine – February 16

Teams are constantly updating their cars throughout the year. Don’t be surprised if Mercedes shows up to their car launch with one design, to testing with another, and to the first race with yet another spec. They’ve done it before.

2023 F1 pre-season schedule

Pre-season tests will take place over the course of three days at the Bahrain International Circuit, from Feb 23-25. The teams will be limited to running one car at a time over two four-hour intervals per day, adding up to 24 hours of total possible testing time.

Don’t read too much into lap times during testing, as they rarely translate into season performance for a plethora of reasons. Instead, pay attention to reliability. Teams that get through pre-season testing without a hitch are usually set for a solid season.

Also note that Netflix’s Drive to Survive Season 5, which will spotlight the 2022 championship, will drop on Feb 24, right in the middle of testing.

2023 F1 calendar

F1 will hold its longest season yet with 23 scheduled races. This was the intended number of races last year before the Russian Grand Prix was cancelled. Russia will not return in 2023 nor will the French and Chinese Grands Prix. The latter was originally planned for 2023 but was also cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions and will not be replaced.

The 2023 season will mark the launch of an all-new Las Vegas Grand Prix and the return of the Qatar Grand Prix, which was absent last year because of the FIFA World Cup.

There will be six sprint races in 2023, up from just three in the last two seasons. Instead of qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday, drivers will qualify on Friday, take part in a shortened race on Saturday, and then race on Sunday as usual with their starting order determined by the sprint. F1 has yet to reveal which Grands Prix it has chosen for this year’s sprint events.

March 5 – Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir
March 19 – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah
April 2 – Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne
April 30 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku
May 7 – Miami Grand Prix, Florida
May 21 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola
May 28 – Monaco Grand Prix, Monaco
June 4 – Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona
June 18 – Canadian Grand Prix, Montréal
July 2 – Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg
July 9 – British Grand Prix, Silverstone
July 23 – Hungarian Grand Prix, Mogyoród
July 30 – Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
August 27 – Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort
September 3 – Italian Grand Prix, Monza
September 17 – Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay
September 24 – Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
October 8 – Qatar Grand Prix, Lusail
October 22 – United States Grand Prix, Austin
October 29 – Mexico City Grand Prix, Mexico City
November 5 – Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Interlagos
November 18 – Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas
November 26 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi

2023 F1 driver lineup

Most of the 20-driver lineup remains unchanged from 2022, but there are several new rookies to pay attention to: Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant, and Nyck de Vries.

Piastri is making his F1 debut at McLaren following consecutive Formula 2, Formula 3, and Formula Renault Eurocup titles, so expectations are high. Sargeant is the first American driver since Alexander Rossi in 2015 and finished fourth in last year’s F2 championship. De Vries, after delivering an excellent performance at last year’s Italian Grand Prix while substituting for Alexander Albon, was offered a seat at AlphaTauri.

Pierre Gasly will drive alongside fellow Frenchman Esteban Ocon at Alpine, his first move to a non-Red Bull team. Fernando Alonso is replacing the retired Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin, giving young Stroll a big benchmark. And over at Haas, Mick Schumacher was let go to make room for Nico Hülkenberg, who is coming out of his own F1 retirement.

Red Bull – Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
Ferrari – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Alpine – Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly
McLaren – Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri
Alfa Romeo – Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu
Aston Martin – Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll
Haas – Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg
AlphaTauri – Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda
Williams – Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant

2023 F1 regulations and rules

There are a few technical regulations that will change the 2023 cars compared to 2022. The ground-effect floors have to be raised by 15 mm to prevent teams from running their cars too low and risking driver safety via the porpoising effect. Each car will have significantly larger mirrors for greater rearward visibility and a revised rollhoop to prevent it from digging into the ground, as Zhou Guanyu’s car did at the 2022 British Grand Prix when it skidded upside down.

F1 plans for a cost cap of $135 million for the year, a reduction from last year’s $142.4m cap. Additionally, teams have limited wind tunnel and CFD testing time inversely proportional to their recent championship performance. The title winner gets only 70% of the maximum 320 wind tunnel runs. Red Bull, which received an additional penalty for exceeding the 2021 cost cap, will get just 63%.

Who will win in 2023?

Red Bull Racing had the pace at the end of 2022, but the limited development time is bound to cut into its advantage. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has warned that Mercedes will be its toughest competitor in 2023 but it’s hard to call a favorite between them and Ferrari. Ferrari had the strongest car for the first half of 2022 but was let down by driver mistakes, poor strategy decisions, and reliability issues. If it can handle these problems, we could get an exciting three-way fight at the top. Aston Martin also ended strong in 2022 and could be a new force to be reckoned with in the upcoming F1 season.